Q. I am a Vietnam Navy veteran and years ago I was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma. I almost missed out on VA benefits because I didn't know I was eligible. I don't want other veterans to miss out on benefits. Can you please get the word out?
A. Thank you for sharing your story. There is a special rule regarding non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) that affects "Blue Water" and other Vietnam veterans. However, the rule doesn't do much good if veterans don't know about it and VA doesn't consistently apply it.
NHL is a type of cancer of the lymph glands and other lymphatic tissue. Early signs of NHL include swollen, painless lymph nodes in the neck, armpit or groin areas. Other signs may include fever, night sweats, fatigue, weight loss, abdominal pain or swelling, chest pain or trouble breathing and itchy skin.
VA presumes NHL is related to a veteran's exposure to Agent Orange or other herbicides during military service, service in Vietnam or service in the offshore waters of Vietnam during the Vietnam era. Veterans with NHL due to exposure of Agent Orange or other herbicides may be eligible for disability compensation and VA health care.
Additionally, surviving spouses, dependent children and dependent parents of veterans who were exposed to herbicides during military service, or who served in Vietnam during the Vietnam era (including the waters offshore), and died as the result of non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma, may be eligible for survivors' benefits.
If you have any type of Vietnam service, it is important to let your doctor's know you may be at higher risk for certain diseases, including NHL. If you don't understand a diagnosis or lab result, please ask for an explanation. And if you are diagnosed with NHL, speak with a service officer about VA benefits.